Before you go buying new pickups

Discussion in 'Tone Zone' started by donepearce, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. WavMixer

    WavMixer Well-Known Member

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    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEN_Ya687oc"]CHARLIE BROWN ~ The Coasters ~ Why Is Everybody Always Picking On Me? - YouTube[/ame]
     
  2. dbb

    dbb Well-Known Member

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    I think I get what Don means about the difference between a guitar amp, even one that I would use for a "clean" tone, and an amp with truly low total harmonic distortion.

    Even a guitar amp, designed for a jazz player or country player to be used with a clean tone, even SS amps, are colored in EQ response ( not flat ) and will have a higher THD.

    If memory serves, a fine stereo amplifier (not at max of course) can have as little as .05% THD as part of the output signal.

    Clean guitar amps can be 5-10% THD, and if you use any tube saturation, you can get into the 50% range.

    So what an audiophile would use for a standard is not what a guitarist would use in choosing an amp.

    As for the concept of separation, that's even used to describe the way different types of acoustic guitars respond; some acoustics will let a strummed non-arpeggiated chord speak with each individual note, other types will seem more like a single thick blast of notes blended together.

    Pick material makes a difference in tone and an response. Try various materials and thicknesses of picks on an acoustic guitar and hear the variations of timbre.

    Well, thanks for an interesting thread.
     
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  3. smitty_p

    smitty_p Well-Known Member

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    This is correct. I'm not really taking sides in this thread, but I'm perceiving a bit of disconnect in descriptions of "clean." In purely technical terms, even a clean guitar amp introduces quite a bit of distortion to the signal. The "sparkly" Fender cleans or the "Chimy" Vox cleans are the products of distortion, meaning the original signal is altered (distorted) in some fashion. Some of the alteration may be the tone stack, itself, but much of it is the result of the tubes and design, itself. This is not a bad thing; it is what allows each amp to have its own character.

    But, the technically correct understanding of "clean" is a rather different affair from the guitar-playing understanding of "clean."

    As an aside, in professional sound reinforcement amplifiers, there is almost never a tone stack or EQ. That is handled by separate equipment or processing. The amplifier is expected to reproduce as exactly as possible the original signal, just louder.

    Incidentally, the same holds true for speakers. The speakers we cherish in our guitar amplifiers would be horrible for sound reinforcement.

    As to the OP, I usually use a .73 mm nylon pick, but I will use a 2mm graphite pick, on occasion, to get a different timbre.
     
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  4. Alex_SG

    Alex_SG Well-Known Member

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  5. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    I really thought I had been pretty clear in my distinction between the distorted "clean" channel of a guitar amp and an actually clean Hi Fi amp. Maybe I should have spelled it out more fully.
     
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  6. WavMixer

    WavMixer Well-Known Member

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    Well I could be way off base here and do not claim to be an audiophile expert however...

    I would think that any time you change something from it's original form, it would be distorted. For example, if a person was enlarged to an abnormal size although accuratly scaled, would this person not be distorted?

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    By nature, an amplifier magnifies the sound of the string vibration altering it from it's original wave form. So once you plug a guitar in, the sound it makes through an amplifier will be different than the sound it makes without an amplifier thereby distorting the sound from it's original unamplified form. Adjusting the equalization (EQ) will further alter the signal coming out of the amp. Using the same amp with different speakers can also change the sound or tone being played through the amp.

    So if the above statement is true, all of the audio clips that Don posted were indeed distorted. Now by using an amp that had a clean signal without the use of any effect pedals or having the gain on the amp turned up, this is what is commonly called a "clean" or distortion free signal. So how can that be a clean signal but still be distorted you may ask? We commonly accept the term "clean" as being an amplified sound with no "extra" distortion added to "enhance" the sound.

    Then we come down to the human factor...
    Can a human accurately reproduce the plucking of a string every time? Perhaps not. I'm sure that some can get very close, but we are not robots and I'm sure that there will be at the least, very slight variances with each attack of the string... unless of coarse you are a robot

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8WJu6MNfSg&feature=youtu.be

    So now you can throw rocks at me and tell me I don't know what I'm talking about and you are probably correct, I am not a doctor of toneolegy, I'm just a guy reading this thread without a box of popcorn.
     
  7. eS.G.

    eS.G. Well-Known Member

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    Well I am a dumb arse redneck.........I took the Old White Witch out last night, and I grabbed my bowl O pics, a lifetime collection of all shapes and sizes and styles and fabrics I have gathered, collected been given, stolen, found, whatever.....
    Now I have no high techie recording device or such. and so this all becomes just MY perception, but in the simplest basic form.......
    Same amp
    Same guitar
    NO setting adjustment to either
    Play a bit swap pic play a bit swap pic play abit.....blah blah blah.
    I tried probably 20 different pics. And you know what there where about 10-15 different "tones" or feels or I don't know whats.....an E is still an E but it might be brighter, or darker, or friggin fish eyed sideways.....but there was a noticeable change from one to the other,,,,,some more than others, some ....honestly AS much as a pup swap. Some NOT EVEN CLOSE to that level of tone change, but there is a difference.

    Not taking sides either....just conducting a good ol rubber hits the road testicle, er testes....no TEST thats it TES, yes,,,, HEY JAck thats as scientific as this ol boy gets.
    For my next test I am going to nail 10 pics to a board, then I am going to shoot each from 50 ft. with a .22 rifle, and compare the bullet stopping capabilities of a guitar pic.
    Stay tuned ya'll, he Alex, hold my beer!
     
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  8. WavMixer

    WavMixer Well-Known Member

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    Ahhh, a good old fashion pick shoot out.
     
  9. smitty_p

    smitty_p Well-Known Member

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    In amplifier terminology, the simple increase in the amplitude of a waveform is not distortion. Distortion entails the introduction of any artifacts or products that are not present in the original signal. Common distortions may be harmonic distortion, intermodulation distortion, or crossover distortion (for non Class A amps). Essentialy, if the output waveform is not an exact duplicate of the original, with the exception of the change in amplitude, the waveform is distorted.
     
  10. WavMixer

    WavMixer Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the clarification Smitty. As I said, I am not an expert in this field. The reason that I had this impression is that when I play my acoustic/electric guitar, it sounds much different unplugged that it does plugged in. More than just a volume difference, but a tonal difference as well. I really noticed this when testing out an Ovation guitar a few months back.
     
  11. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    More than that. A tonal difference is not distortion either. In a linear amp, the output is always directly proportional to the input. The multiplication factor may not be the same at high and low frequencies, in which case you get a tone change. But the proportionaluty is still maintained.

    In a distorting amp - like a guitar amp - this is not the case. The multiplying factor changes depending on the level going in. In other words, if you put a completely pure sine wave in, you get a different - non-sine-wave - coming out. The tone now has harmonics it didn't have before and it sounds fatter, richer. That is how a guitar amp works. And that is why a guitar amp is such a lousy choice for a PA amp. You want a PA to be as non-distorting as possible.

    And eS.G? Your twenty pick shootout is a perfect replication of my original point. You get at least as much tone change from swapping picks as you do from swapping pickups. And it is a lot cheaper. And you can do it between songs.
     
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  12. smitty_p

    smitty_p Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, except starting a thread to announce your NPD (New Pick Day) isn't as exciting as announcing your NPD (New PickUP Day)!:naughty:
     
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  13. peejaybee

    peejaybee Well-Known Member

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    The only thing that stops me from hollering 'hear hear" is that I've never changed pickups, but I believe it.
     
  14. Paul G.

    Paul G. Well-Known Member

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    I've been a nut about the importance of pick. I love small hard "jazz" teardrops for tone and separation. Unfortunately in live situations they suck as the fly out of my hands.

    So…for recording, I like thick tortoise tiny jazzers. I don't know the brand, they're around.

    For live I like Dunlop Tortex .88s (greenies). I have a bunch of .73 (yellows) I bought by mistake I'm using, trying to wear them out, but they won't cooperate!! My cheap ass is just going to force itself to put them away but it seems a waste!!

    P.
     
  15. flyswatter

    flyswatter Member

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    Hey, Paul, same picks and problems (flying picks) as you. Have you considered trying Brain picks? I switched to these and never looked back.

    [ame]http://www.amazon.com/Snarling-Dogs-Brain-TNSDB351-Collectible/dp/B000BBGCBE[/ame]
     
  16. eS.G.

    eS.G. Well-Known Member

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    Well another interesting bit here I will point out an interview I watched with John Paul Jones (you know the "other" guy from Led Zepplin) and he showed that on some songs, he used a pick, on others ---his fingers.....sometimes a plastic pick....it depended on the SOUND and tone he wanted for that particular song----he didn't say he changed pick ups between songs---or even guitars, changed picks/fingers........
    So ....here ya go he plays different riffs....from different songs some fingers some picks....different tones..
    Cool interview....a little long winded ....but still interesting.
    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaa1axJ63Qg[/ame]


    LISTEN to what he says around 8:00 in about tone and gear.
     
  17. potatofarmer

    potatofarmer Member

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    I agree with the original premise - if you're looking for subtle to moderate changes in your tone, different pick material (as well as different playing technique and different setup) can make quite a difference. You can achieve radical changes in tone by changing pickups though - no amount of picking technique can make a $5 pickup sound like a strat, tele, es335, les paul, parker fly, etc. regardless of whatever amp you're plugged into.

    Are pickups linear - sort of. They are roughly linear below their resonant frequency, which is determined by the inductive strength of the pickup and the tone cap(s) in your guitar, and the capacitance of your guitar cable (and the input of the amp) to decreasing degrees. There are also eddy current losses which can significantly affect the linearity of a pickup's transfer characteristic ("tone").

    Are guitar amplifiers linear - they can be. It really depends on how tight you define "linear" and what sort of volume you're hoping to get. My Twin Reverb hits ~10% THD at 115W and while I don't have a distortion analyzer to confirm this, at only 15W of output (which is still quite loud) the signal voltages will be well within the linear region of each amplification stage. Guitar amps (and vintage amps especially) weren't built in a vacuum, they were taking cues from RCA and the RDH for the linear amps of the day.

    Even if we substitute in a perfectly amazing amplifier, we still have to pump this signal through musical instrument speakers which are horrid in the sense of linear amplification. So what if we choose PA speakers instead? Those are still pretty bad.

    Okay, so we take the most linear speakers we can possibly find, with impossibly perfect crossovers between the woofers and tweeters... now we have to design a perfect box for them. Okay, so say we have this perfect ideal speaker array for our perfect amplifier. Only the one person standing directly in front of our speaker will hear this perfect sound. There are off-axis dispersion problems, reflections, standing waves -- we need to tune the venue!

    So we take out our bass traps, diffusers, absorption panels and much to the confused look of the bar patrons we now have a linear listening environment in an easy chair in the center of the room. Anyone under 5'5" is going to have to sit on a phone book.

    Or, wait, none of this matters since we're interested in sound production not reproduction. Plus we booked the Kinks and they shredded our expensive speaker cone with a razor blade because "...sounds better, man."


    But yeah, definitely try different picks, and picking in different locations, especially before plopping down the money for new pickups.
     
  18. eS.G.

    eS.G. Well-Known Member

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